Preview: Coyotes at Golden Knights
The Arizona Coyotes are venturing to Sin City knowing the odds are stacked against them as they make a last-gasp bid to secure their first playoff appearance since the 2011-12 season. The Coyotes will need to win their last two games -- including Thursday's road tilt versus the Vegas Golden Knights -- and hope that Colorado falls in regulation in each of its last two contests.
Arizona coach Rick Tocchet refused to succumb to emotion after seeing his team lose its seventh contest in nine outings with Tuesday's 3-1 setback versus the Los Angeles Kings. "I know the guys are down, but we have to worry about winning the game in Vegas," Tocchet said. "That's it. And then we'll go from there." The Golden Knights, who are locked in as the third seed in the Pacific Division, snapped a season-high five-game losing skid with a 3-1 win versus against Edmonton on Monday. "We had a tough little stretch the past few games. ... It's about getting ready for the playoffs right now," said Jonathan Marchessault, who recorded his sixth game-winning tally early in the second period to boost his point total to 23 (eight goals, 15 assists) in his last 26 contests.
TV: 10 p.m. ET, FS Arizona, AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountains (Vegas)
ABOUT THE COYOTES (38-34-8): Arizona faces uncertainty in the crease after Kings forward Trevor Lewis' stick blade became caught in the opening of Darcy Kuemper's mask, injuring his right eye. "Probably know more (Thursday)," Tocchet said of the 28-year-old Kuemper, who was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week on Monday. "But I talked to him today. Smile on his face. He put some drops in there and stuff, so we'll see how it reacts." Calvin Pickard could be in line for his first start since March 11 for the Coyotes, who reached out to Tucson of the American Hockey League on Wednesday to recall fellow goaltender Adin Hill.
ABOUT THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS (43-30-7): Three-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to play in one of Vegas' final two games after being sidelined since March 15 due to an undisclosed injury. "We'll see what (coach Gerard Gallant) wants. But at least the last one. Hopefully maybe (Thursday) too," said Fleury, who has practiced with the team the last two days. Vegas has posted a 4-3-2 mark in the absence of Fleury, who has turned aside 69 of 76 shots to post a 2-1-0 mark against Arizona this season.
1. Vegas C William Karlsson has six goals and 11 assists in his last 15 games.
2. Arizona C Brad Richardson scored just his second goal in 16 contests on Tuesday to move within one of 100 for his career.
3. Golden Knights LW Max Pacioretty capped a two-goal performance by scoring in overtime of a 3-2 win against the Coyotes on Nov. 21.
PREDICTION: Golden Knights 3, Coyotes 2